April 2, 2010— -- The U.S. economy has "turned the corner," but it will still take up to five years to regain all the jobs lost since the economic collapse, economic guru Mark Zandi told ABC News today.
Zandi, the chief economist of Moody's Analytics, spoke with "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer after the Department of Labor released new job figures that indicated that the economy added 162,000 jobs last month, the largest increase in three years.
Despite the boost in jobs, the unemployment rate remained steady at 9.7 percent and Zandi said that rate "isn't going to fall anytime soon." He said it will remain high for the next six to nine months.
The stubbornly high unemployment rate has been a problem for the Obama administration which has sunk trillions into the economy to stabilize it. While Wall Street has recovered, many of the 15 million people who lost their jobs during the economic crisis are finding business slow to resume hiring.
Nevertheless, Zandi said the fresh labor figures are good news.
"It's very encouraging. I think going forward we are going to get consistent job growth," he said.
"No doubt that we've turned the corner. The most encouraging thing about the numbers we got today is that the job growth is very broad based, across lots of different industries: manufacturing, mining, retailing, leisure and hospitality, health care.
"So that gives me some sense of confidence that we are seeing a clear turn in the jobs picture," Zandi said.
Even with the boost in job creation, it will take a while to recoup the jobs that disappeared since the economic crisis began.
"Even with consistent job growth, it is going to take three, four, five years to get all those jobs back," Zandi said.
People seem to be sensing that jobs are reappearing.
"It is encouraging that people are starting to feel a little more confident that if they start looking for work, they might find a job," he said.
Despite the optimism over today's figures, the economy is still feeling the drag of those high unemployment numbers.
High Unemployment Keeping Salaries Down
"There is a surfeit of workers out there and that's keeping wages down. In fact, wages have stalled out. That's going to remain a constraint on the willingness and ability of people to spend," he warned.
The economy needs to show job creation in the northwest, southeast and New England over the next six months.
"It's very encouraging that businesses are profitable, stock prices are up. We just need a little bit of confidence, a little bit more credit... And all the pre-conditions for much stronger job growth will be in place."
Zandi predicted, "We will see that, I think, by this time next year."